Time | Team | Tools & Reality

Best Laid Plans

Exodus-Moses-Parts-The-Red-SeaWhen it comes to any project planning, recognizing your limitations is key to accomplishing realistic expectations. We all have pie in the sky ideas for what our incredibly amazing, life/world changing project is going to be and all the phenomenal success we will have as a result. None of this will come to pass unless you give some real thought to the actual time it will take to accomplish the project goals, the team you will need to make it all happen in a seamless way with all the tools right at your fingertips. In an ideal world, everything flows and blends together. The Red Sea parts and the world is your oyster.

 

This. Is. Not. That.

 

The Reality

Yellow Sea Horse in Aquarium

Our pie in the sky vision is exactly that without hardcore tough love decision making. I’ve been a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants gal my whole life. And for the most part, it has worked out pretty well so far. There were big opportunities I missed out on because long-term planning wasn’t “my thing”. Sure, it’s easy to dream. It’s easy to set your sites on a goal. How to get there? You can probably eyeball that, too. How to get there exactly as your ideal vision has pictured? Well, that’s a horse of an entirely different color….or type.

The Cold Hard Truth

When it comes to actually seeing your vision become reality you’re going to have to face some cold, hard truths. Your ideal plan is not going to happen with a team of one. You will need a team in order to fill in the gaps in your knowledge and expertise. Or even to just do the tasking that is required, but perhaps does not require your specific time and talents to accomplish. Hire outside of yourself. On a shoestring budget? Consider a trade of in-kind services. We all have special skills that are valuable to someone else and vice versa. Still not able to find someone? Then consider hiring small. In a perfect world, you would have the financial ability to hire your ideal person full time. What about for just a few hours per week or month? Get that ideal person at the front gate. Let them get to know you and your business. By the time you are ready to bring them to full-time they will already know the ins and outs of your business. They’ll be ready to dive into the deeper aspects of your projects.

Plain wooden block truck child's toyNot ready to bring anyone else on board? Is a team of one your motto and words you live by? Then it’s time to get out the red pen to your project. What can you do realistically each and every day? Be tough and honest with yourself. Pare down your project down to its very basics. We’re talking the framework of a car without all the bells and whistles. A plain, standard model to get you from point a to point b. Does it have an engine and wheels that work? Then that is all you need to get started.

 

Chin up

It’s easy to get discouraged at this stage. You know the ideal way you want this idea to come to fruition. Taking the Ferrari in your mind down to the Ford Truck is hard. Here’s what I want you to remember, getting started is more important than holding on to the ideal version of your project and not getting started at all. Keep those little pared down darlings close by. As your project continues to develop there may be opportunities for them to be brought back into the plan. Some of them will make a comeback and others will not. Timing and the growth of your project will indicate when if their time has come. Some never will. Others will turn into Phase 2, 3, or 4 additions.

 

The Lessons Learned…….The Hard Way

I share these tips with you because of my own epic pie-in-the-sky planning failure(s). Most recently, I planned a repeat of something I did a few years back: Three different daily podcasts for National Podcast Post Month in November aka NaPodPoMo (30 podcasts in 30 days).

I was able to accomplish this originally in 2015. I recorded three shows a day for a total of 90 shows in the month of November. When I tried to reattempt this in 2017 as part of the 10 year anniversary of National Podcast Post Month, I failed miserably. Why? I set unrealistic expectations on the time I had available, the team who would help me accomplish this goal (me) and the tools I would use to make it all happen (1 live show and 2 shows prerecorded with post-production edits).

So, why was it I was able to accomplish this so easily in 2015 and yet stumble through the entire month in 2017? It all comes down to Time, Team & Tools.

Back in 2015, I was just coming back into the world after a health scare with my youngest son. NaPodPoMo was what I needed to get out of the medical brain fog that had been the previous months of my life. Plus, in 2015 all three shows were done live. Recording time was all I needed which made keeping the three times daily podcast sessions easy to keep up with. Due to months of being out of the loop, my workload was almost non-existent. I was just in the process of on-boarding a repeat client. Which meant my attention wasn’t split in too many directions. I had a simple calendar and it was easy to keep track of everything.

You can talk sense to a fool and he will call you foolish - Euripides quote

Fast-forward to 2017 and I had several client projects, am teaching courses each month to students while also taking a few courses myself. Out of the three podcasts, I scheduled for NaPodPoMo, only one was live. That single podcast is the only one which accomplished the goal of 30 podcasts in 30 days. When push comes to shove things fell into the cracks. I was so in love with the idea of doing three shows for the 10 year anniversary, I refused to see that the reality was there was never going to be an opportunity at success given that I did not plan for any deviation to my vision. I also did not bring in support to help with the prerecorded shows. This was the fatal flaw to my perfectly laid out plan. I should have known that I would become the bottleneck to success. Yet, I persisted with the idea that I could do it all.

The Rub

You would think I would have gotten wiser by this experience……I have and I haven’t. I had a 2018 planning session with my business coach to lay out the course of my business. I narrowed my focus down to three main pieces, which is quite a feat considering how much Shiny Object Syndrome plays out in my life. I had pushed back one of “my darlings” to later in the year instead of creating a big bang launch in January. This made complete sense in the overall planning. Yet, I realize I still need to thin the herd a bit. In order to be successful at some, I will sacrifice others. These are sound decisions. They make black and white sense. Here’s the rub, the things I am sacrificing are my own personal growth and pet business projects. Zen stones being knocked over by black ocean waves

As a mother, this is nothing new. You always sacrifice what you might need or want for the greater good of your family. It’s just what you do. We can always wait until later when it’s a better time…..or……

The logical part of myself says, “Grow up, there will always be time to get these things done later. Take care of these other things because it will help you in the long run.” <-This grown up is not wrong. Yet, I can look back and see the many times I was on the precipice of something truly amazing and the reality of life forced me to reconsider the bigger picture. Some things absolutely needed me to stop, drop, and roll for something or someone who had needs greater than my own. But not all. There were several I have a very strong feeling would have changed the whole direction of my life. There is a definite feeling of “Rinse and Repeat” present. A deja vu of opportunities slipping away…..again.

Silver Linings

This is not a tale of doom and gloom. Not by a long shot. My life is my own. I work with clients I like on projects I enjoy and on a mission I believe in. My motto which can be found on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn et al.. is “Living the Dream” and I am no matter what you’ve read above. Just because I am living a life of my choice doesn’t mean I’m still not challenged. I’m still growing and learning and yes, also still compromising along the way.

yellow and white paper origami ship on waterThe silver lining is that I am in charge of this speedboat. Sometimes my plans will have to be docked or perhaps I trade in that speedboat for a leisurely ride on a pleasure cruiser or ocean liner. Slow to maneuver, but they will eventually get to their destination.

At the end of the day when I look at 2018 or any year for that matter, I see an ocean of possibilities which are ripe with opportunity. It’s up to me to chart my course in whatever mode of transport fits the situation to see success in all its forms as they manifest themselves on the journey.

Speaker Interviews: Educating for Success Home Business Conference Day 1

As you all know, I am in Huntsville, AL at Rhea Perry’s Educating for Success Home Business Conference. While I am one of the speakers, I wanted to do more to show the attendees how easy and fun audio and video can be at events. So, I am hosting a Social Media Lounge and interviewing the speakers during the lunch and dinner breaks.

Joel Salatin
Joel Salatin

 

Speaker Interviews: Friday

The goal of my speaker interviews is to find out more about the vision behind their talks as well as a bit more about them personally. Joel Salatin who shares the concept of Entrepreneurial Farming as a profitable business model where ownership is not in the land or the equipment but in knowledge. He shares with me the concept of thinking of the animals and plants as partners in your successful farming enterprise.

Drew Perry
Drew Perry

 

My next interview was with Drew Perry who I have known since he was 18 when I attended my first Rhea Perry conference 10 years ago. We talk about his philosophy behind entrepreneurship and life. He encourages all of us to explore the world, follow your interests and find things that interest you to create business opportunities.

Drew is always fun loving and it is fantastic see that his curiosity of the world and love of entrepreneurship has grown with his young family.

 

 

Additional Interviews

I never know what I am going to learn when I interview folks. It’s always something different and interesting. I sat down with Dan Celia who shared his vision behind what the real deficit is in America. It isn’t what you think. The discussion is one that is considered a hot button issue for many, but the heart of it is the lack of true understanding behind the economics that govern our day to day lives.

Teresa Bell sat with me in the evening to talk about her online greeting card business which she has been successfully running for the last 2 1/2 years. She talked about the ease of use for both personal and business outreach. It was easy to see that Teresa enjoys what she does for a living and is excited to share the message with others.

The web can be a daunting space for business to navigate.  Frank Deardurff will be helping to demystify the web with simple and easy strategies anyone can use to build, manage and maintain a business site. When I asked him why he wanted to share this message with attendees of the Educating for Success Home Business Conference, he told me about the horror stories he had heard form clients about their web experiences in the past. Frank will actually walk everyone through a basic setup of a site while offering tips and lessons learned along the way.

Day 1 Recap

As you can see, the Social Media Lounge has been quite busy on the first official day of interviews. Look for more updates on Saturday with a whole new set of speakers who will be put in the hot seat. Thanks for all you comments on Twitter and Facebook. As always, let me hear what you think.

UPDATE: To follow what is happening at the Educating for Success Home Business Conference use #efshbc. To keep updated on all of my Social Media Powered Business Trip travels follow #smpbt

 

 

 

San Antonio to New Orleans #SMPBT

Rhea_Perry
Rhea Perry, Founder of Educating for Success

Today was the start of my journey. But before I could log one mile of the 1, 929 miles, I had to talk to the woman who is the founder and visionary behind Educating For Success.  For the last 13 years Rhea Perry has used her online community and annual events to help homeschooling families and others learn how to build their own businesses to gain their financial freedom.

Rhea talks about her upcoming home business conference in Huntsville, AL happening the weekend of August 9-11, 2013. The topics being discussed range from Internet Entrepreneurs to Real Estate Investing to Entrepreneurial Farming and more. You can probably guess that I will be sharing my knowledge about the practical application of social media for entrepreneurs, non-profits and small business.

Find out more information about the conference by visiting bit.ly/educationforsuccess

 

Travel Notes

My connectivity use has changed in the last two years since I conducted a Social Media Powered Business Trip. Two years ago I decided to go completely web based with my communications. I got rid of the cell phone plan and went with Skype and a wifi-hotspot. What started out as an experiment has become the only way I do business and stay connected with clients, friends and family.

For the most part it works out well and I love being connected without having to deal with cell companies who I feel overcharge for their services.  However, there are times when the hotspot is unable to deliver a strong signal and today was one of those days. In all fairness, in the past I have also experienced the same type of interrupted service from the traditional mobile carriers. When I look at an overview I feel I am still winning the connectivity battle. Overall, I was able to work with clients while traveling from San Antonio to New Orleans and count today as a #smpbt success.

Social Media Powered Business Trip Part Deux

One of the things I really like to do with social media is to highlight fun and creative ways it can be used for business. I think it helps to drive home how easy it really is to use the social platforms and their mobile tools to share your messaging regardless of where you are or what you are doing. In other words, there is no excuse not to make social media a seamless part of your business.

A couple of years ago I did this through something I called the “Social Media Powered Business Trip.” The idea behind this was to use only my iPhone to post audio, video, tweets, Facebook updates and photos to document the journey from San Antonio, TX to Destin, FL where I was scheduled to speak at Rhea Perry’s Educating For Success Entrepreneur Conference.

What made the experience even better was that I stopped in several cities to interview folks who were using social media successfully for their business, projects or clients. I knew none of the people I interviewed. I was connected to them through recommendations of my fellow social media peeps. It truly was a social media powered trip. You can read all about it and listen or watch the interviews from that trip here.

Social Media Powered Business Trip Part Deux MapYou might wonder why I am telling you the story of that event. Or perhaps you have already guessed based on the title of my post that I am embarking on another Social Media Powered Business Trip. I will once again be speaking at Rhea Perry’s Entrepreneur Conference.  This time I am making the journey to Huntsville, AL.  Based on the options provided to me by the all powerful Google, I have divided my trip into two separate routes. On the way there I will travel to New Orleans for an overnight stop. Then continue my journey to Huntsville, AL. The route back will be entirely different with a stop in Memphis to visit Graceland before overnighting in Little Rock, Arkansas. Then I will head back to my beloved San Antonio with a quick stop in Dallas.

Who will I be stopping to interview along the way? Well, now that all depends on you. Got someone along the way you would like me to stop and visit? Send me their contact information and they too can become part of the Social Media Powered Business Trip.

Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn

The fun kicks off on Tuesday, August 6th and I expect to be back in San Antonio on Tuesday, August 13th. I am looking forward to having you join me on this latest social media adventure.

Social Media, Clients and My Philosophy

photo credit: Darren Lewis
photo credit: Darren Lewis

As you all know, I am what I call a Social Media Gal. What that means for me is I get to work and play in this space for a living. What I enjoy most is sharing my knowledge with others through both community events and client interaction. Seeing those light bulb moments happen when an audience or a client recognizes the value social media could have on their business or cause is what I enjoy the most.

My philosophy when it comes to social media is that the folks with the boots on the ground should be the ones telling the story. We all know social media is not a “set it and forget it” tool. It is more like a newborn infant which needs to be watched and fed often. This “boots on the ground” philosophy does require the entrepreneurs, businesses and organizations I work with to invest in what I call the Three T’s:  Time | Team | Tools.

Time

Discoverability meetings, staff training and education, profile optimization, design, page creation, social media guidelines, response flowcharts et al., all take time to explain, understand and implement. Anyone who is delving into this social media needs to understand which platforms will work best for their needs, the use and languaging for each platform and how to participate in the space effectively.

Team

One of the decisions a company will have to make is who will be responsible for monitoring, posting and responding on their social channels. I stress the importance of this position so that they understand that every tweet, post and comment is a direct representation of their brand. This is not something that should be taken lightly nor maintained long term by an intern or someone who “will get to it when they have time”. So, making sure they have the person or team who can actively participate is key to the ongoing success of a company’s social media outreach.

Tools

The tools are fairly simple: computer, smartphone, tablet and of course internet access. Make sure your team members are equipped to represent and respond. You do not need all three to succeed, but removing barriers to access is important. You can post, audio record, live video stream, photograph and more all from a smartphone. I know some folks run their entire business from their phones. We are truly living in the Age of the Jetsons.

 

Not everyone I speak to is ready for this kind of commitment  That’s ok. There are plenty of companies that provide social media services who will do all the heavy lifting for you. They create, post and engage with your followers and fans on your behalf as if they were your brand. When I come across folks who want to hire me to “do it for them”, I smile politely and tell them, “I’m not your gal.”

Each company has what I call a unique flavor. In my mind the customers who frequent your company know how your receptionist answers the phone and how your team talks, walks and interacts with them on a daily basis. If your online presence doesn’t also reflect that same flavor then there can be some disconnect.

So, it should be no surprise that when I work with a client they are someone who subscribes to my “boots on the ground” philosophy and have put the Three T’s into action. In my line of work, I am fortunate in that I can be selective and choose the clients I enjoy spending time with and projects which interest me. One of the clients I have been working with for the last few months is Linda Elliott of Elliott Connection, LLC.

LInda Elliott, Connections Expert
LInda Elliott, Connections Expert

Linda contacted me when she made the decision to delve into the world of social media after she saw me speak at a local event last year. We had seen each other at events throughout the year so I already knew we got along. However, it wasn’t until we sat down to have our discoverability meeting I knew we would be a perfect fit. Linda is a Connections Expert and has a unique talent for finding the perfect partnerships for her clients. Personally, I would describe what she does as an elegant introduction. To experience it is to understand it. Once you have, you will never forget it. I know I never will (more about this in a future post).

As with all projects, you spend months building the platforms and training the team and then there is the moment when they are ready to go live. It is a true pleasure to share the news that today Linda Elliott is launching her Power of Connections blog. Wander over there, take a look and let her know what you think. As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments.

 

RISE Austin 2011 Video Interview

Today I decided to do something I haven’t done in a while. Google myself. Now while that sounds like it might be something you do behind closed doors, it really isn’t. Everyone should Google themselves. Simply type your name in the search bar of your browser to see the results of your online activity aka digital footprint. Due to my active online posting style I usually occupy most of the front page. with the exception of 1 result, that was also true today.

However, this time instead of only reviewing the top search results in Google, I decided to let my curiosity run wild by going past page one. (Gasp!) I’ve been online for a good long bit so going back into search results was almost like going back through time. My old podcasts that were hosted on the Internet Archive, past partnerships, accounts on old social networks. There were some surprises waiting to be discovered. One of which was an interview I did for RISE Austin in 2011. I remember being interviewed but had never seen the finished product. I am sharing it with you here. Would appreciate comments on your “googling self” practices and if you’ve been surprised by what you have discovered.

RISE WEEK 2011: Jennifer Navarrete on Getting Tech Savvy from Bridget Green on Vimeo.

Twitter Testimonial Tip

Image by Bruna Pires

We all know that testimonials can be powerful tools for our business. So what are you doing with them after the first excitement wears off? One of the techniques I encourage folks to use when creating their Editorial Calendar is to share testimonials from satisfied clients. Your clients who have taken the time to let you know they appreciate your service can become part of your brand ambassador team.

Testimonials are easy to share when they are in the form of an email or letter. However, with all of today’s tools at our fingertips why limit the variety of your reach? With smartphones and apps it is also very easy to do this through audio and video.  Think about asking your happy client to share an audio or video testimonial about the service or products your business provides. Hearing the energy and excitement of someone who is “in the moment” can really drive home the point of how well your business does it’s job.

Of course, there is more than one way to capture customer testimonials. Thanks to a recent Twitter update, we can embed some of those testimonials into our website. Here is an example of some kudos that Susan Price and myself received from one of our workshop attendees:

Be creative with the different platforms you can use to capture those testimonials. You might be surprised to discover exactly how many folks have said great things about your business. Your employees, existing and potential clients will be happy to hear about all the wonderful things your company is doing when seen through the eyes of a happy client testimonial.

Want to know the other creative ways Twitter embed posts can be used in your business? Then head over to HubSpot to discover 7 Epic Uses of Twitter’s New Embeddable Tweets Feature.

A Starbucks Observation: When Everything Goes Wrong

Last week I did something that happens across coffee shops all across America. I had a meeting at a Starbucks. This isn’t groundbreaking news or really worth discussing except for what happened for the 2+ hours I sat inside this particular Starbucks.

Let me set the stage: It was 4pm on a cold winter afternoon. Seating inside was at a premium while outdoor seating was abandoned for the warmer interior. There was really nothing that would set this Starbucks apart from any of the others around town. Several tables had folks holding meetings while others were occupied by solo laptop folks. Once our group found a corner to occupy for our meeting, it was time to get a cup of coffee….or so I thought. Turns out this particular Starbucks water heating system was not working. This means that there were no hot drinks to be had on this day. No regular coffee, no lattes, no espresso drinks not even a hot tea could be had by patrons. The only drinks being offered were Frappuccinos and iced drinks. This is what was available on a cold day.

When it comes to coffee or lack thereof you would expect folks to be frustrated, upset or even angry. You can probably envision folks grumbling and complaining about a coffee shop that is unable to provide it’s core product. So, what do you think the reactions are by the people coming in to order a hot drink on a cold day? Let me share with you the encounters I overheard:

#1.

Barista: “Ma’am, all we have are Frappuccinos.”

Elderly Woman:  “Oh, I’ve never tried a Frappuccino before. Let me give it a try.”

#2.

Barista: “Ma’am, we are out of non-fat milk. Are you ok with whole milk?”

Young Lady: “That’ll be fine.”

#3.

Barista: “Oh, I’m sorry sir. Turns out we are out of that flavor. Would you like to try something else?”

Older Man: “No, not really.”

Barista: “Ok, would you like your money back?”

Man: “No, why don’t you keep it as a tip. You guys always work so hard.”

Barista: “Really? Thank you very much, sir.”

Are you as stunned as I am? I can tell you that in my time there, I did not hear a single complaint. I heard surprise, “You’re out of coffee?” and “Oh wow, must be tough for you guys right now” type comments. Not a single person raised their voice or stormed out in disgust.

In case you missed it in #2 & #3, this Starbucks was out of certain milk and flavors as well as no wifi and bathrooms that needed toilet paper refilling. Yet, everyone who came in took it all in stride. I was perplexed by this until it occurred to me that the people who frequent this Starbucks are regulars. They have probably been coming here for some time, know the folks behind the counter and have had excellent customer service and been on the receiving end of their expected quality coffee drinks. Because of this patrons were understanding about something going wrong. They were willing to overlook a coffee shop with no coffee. But only because this Starbucks had built up a bank of trust with these customers. So that when everything went wrong, they could draw upon that trust to see them through their temporary crisis.  It was quite the epiphany and had me thinking about how every business could learn from this story.

I did eventually get a hot coffee before leaving but only because another Starbucks sent over two of their large carafes full of Pikes Peek drip coffee. Which was another learning moment. Be there for your partners when they need it. You never know when the tables will turn and it will you in crisis mode.

So, on this day a Starbucks with no coffee, no wifi that was running out of ingredients taught me about building a bank of trust with customers and the importance of having partners to support you in times of crisis.

SoLoMo – Social | Local | Mobile

By now we all know that social should be a part of your overall awareness/research/customer service plan. We also know that increasingly customers are discovering your business through apps on their mobile devices. Local search has always been important and is enhanced when tied into Social and Mobile.

When you tie all the aspects of Social, Local and Mobile aka SoLoMo together you get the trifecta of visibility, discoverability and engagement.

For your entertainment, here is the theme song for SoLoMo:

How A Bolt In The Road Changed My Mind About Customer Service

Bottled Water from Discount Tire

When I ran over a giant bolt in the road on a hot 103°F Summer afternoon I had no idea I was about to learn that customer service is alive and well. We all moan and grown that customer service is a thing of the past. I just had an experience that caused me to rethink my own pessimism.

Driving on a hot summer day I noticed a large bolt in the road. I made attempts to avoid it however, it was all in vain as I pull over with a flat tire. Luckily I was able to park in a strip center with large shady oak trees. Being a long time subscriber of AT&T Road Side Assistance I immediately called them. For $2.99/month I am able to call upon them up to 4x a year for towing up to 10 miles. I scheduled a pick up with a tow to Discount Tires. The tires were covered under road hazard warranty which meant other than time, there wouldn’t be any out of pocket expenses on my part.

I surfed the web at the strip center Starbucks while enjoying a Mocha Frappucino. A nice way to spend the 40 minute-1 hour anticipated wait. Imagine my surprise when the tow truck arrived in less than 30 minutes. He was a nice fellow who was a football fan which meant a fun and  lively discussion-filled drive to Discount Tires.

Bottled Water from Discount Tire
Discount Tire Bottled Water

Once at Discount Tires, I was met by a friendly staff member who was so nice he made me feel like I was part of their family. Sitting in the waiting room allowed me to see that they treated everyone in the same manner. I have spent time in waiting rooms before but have never enjoyed it so much. I was able to see that the jovial staff take care of both entering customers and answer phone calls. They smiled, were nice and professional. When they came around and offered us all bottled water for being so patient while we waited for our cars, I had to shake my head in amazement. Who were these people?  Why wasn’t every other business studying this company and using it as a customer service model?

I left there with an appreciation for what a difference fantastic customer service can do. A giant bolt in my tire could have ruined my day. Instead I was actually glad it happened. This experience restored my faith in customer service. Something I thought was long gone in the modern age.

Shout out to AT&T Roadside Assistance, the fast towing company (wish I could remember your name) and Discount Tires at 2707 NW Loop 410  San Antonio, TX 78230 (210) 341-7752. Your excellent service made a believer in me. Thank you.